Low Hanging Fruit

What is the Low Hanging Fruit Activity?

During workshops and inceptions, there are often problems (or opportunities if you are a positive minded) that are identified, which are quite easy to solve and have an inordinately high ROI as far as value or customer buy-in is concerned. If a concerted effort is not made to capture these, we end up losing this information or prioritise these items poorly. The Low Hanging Fruit activity attempts to bring some structure to alleviate this issue.

Why is it needed?

When a business problem is being solved, the Pareto rule applies to the problem itself and the components of the solution. As far the problem is concerned, there are usually one or two things, which contribute majorly to the pain the problem causes. As far as the solution is concerned, there are usually a handful of activities, which if implemented, goes a long way to achieving the end objectives. Most times, the problem and solution components will be mirror images. Typically, these can be process improvements which greatly increase efficiency or user experience changes which reduce the pain of users considerably or data integration which reduce mistakes and time. The trick is to identify these activities and work on them as soon as possible.

This is useful for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that front loading value creation is always good to do as a practice. This gives the users the most bang for the buck as quickly as possible. The second reason is that, in long running engagements, this contributes greatly towards getting the buy in of your customers which, in turn, makes future collaboration easier.

Timeline

The Low Hanging Fruit, like the Parking Lot, is an activity/artefact that exists throughout the duration of the workshop. I would suggest putting up a sheet on the wall where the team can add sticky notes when needed. Until the final day of the workshop or the day of the prioritisation activity, there is not much work involved in maintaining this sheet. The major effort will be listening out for opportunities and adding sticky notes when they are identified.

During the end of the day rituals, I would suggest going through the list as a team so that there is a shared knowledge and acceptance on which of these are opportunities waiting to be plucked immediately.

Before the prioritization activities commence, I would suggest going through the artefact in detail, creating stories (or other kinds of placeholders), and articulating the value and cost inherent in each of them. This helps in ensuring that the Low Hanging Fruit have high visibility in the prioritization activity. Also, it is essential that the low hanging fruit align with the vision or objectives so that effort is not put in the wrong places. (There might be situations when this is not necessary but this is up to the discretion of the team)

During the showcase or the final presentation to the customers, it is important to articulate the Low Hanging Fruit that have been identified along with the reasons as to why they have been selected. This lets the customers know that they have been listened to and it also gives them the assurance that the team will work on the high value/cost items first.

Who needs to be involved?

All members of the team can and should contribute towards identifying and recording these low hanging fruit. Low Hanging Fruit can come in many forms. They can be a feature, or a technology solve or a data solve. It could even be something as simple as setting up a conversation or a recurring meeting. The point is that since these low hanging fruit can occur in any situation or domain, it is imperative that all team members, regardless of their role, be alert for these opportunities.

Identifying Low Hanging Fruit

This is an art, which relies on the collective experience of the team, their alertness, the perspicacity of the users and serendipity.

Most problems are similar which means that the team can start off with an idea of where the low hanging fruit may lie. For example, typical problems that exist across brownfield implementations are poor UX, poor data integration, lack of clarity around rules etc. It might be possible to solve the poor UX by something as simple as changing the colour combination or increasing the font size. This could be an interim step until a bigger change is made.

In terms of understanding current issues, nothing is more valuable than having a smart user(s). This type of user(s) should be listened to very carefully. The team should watch out for typical catchwords like “biggest or “greatest” or “quickest”. Sometimes, these users will be able to articulate the low hanging fruit as is.

Analysing and discussing the problem and solutions as a team will also bring up some low hanging fruit. There might be a feature request which may be solved very easily technically. These kind of brainstorming sessions will be great at bubbling up low hanging fruit too.

Conclusion

It might take time to become experts at doing this exercise well. But, the very fact of being aware of this and implementing a structure to capture information will take your workshop to the next level, in terms of output.


Originally published at Digital Amrit.